Visionary entrepreneur Jordan “The Wolf of Wall Street” Belfort explains how his own tale of redemption can help motivate you at your darkest hour.
Jordan Belfort – Find Your Why
“I had to tell the kids. It wasn’t like the movie, they took me away. I had reported for jail, alright. And my wife, you know, my ex-wife, we sat down with the kids, it was a Thursday night, and we called the kids into the living room. They’re like, “What’s up, what’s up?” And I started telling my kids, I said, listen, a long time ago, you know when I had that big company and I made some mistakes.
And as soon as I started getting even close to it, my daughter starts bursting out, hysterically crying, and my son was very young and he just starts crying because my daughter’s crying. And it’s just this terrible, gut-wrenching scene where my daughter’s yelling no, and my kids are hugging me, and we’re just, the worst thing you can imagine.
To tell your kids that, Daddy made a mistake and now he’s got to go away, you know. And, you know, I was guilty. I couldn’t say I was trapped, because I did it, I made the mistake. I took some great skills, and I made the mistakes, and I deserved to be there. So I had no one to blame but myself. I made the mistakes. It’s very difficult when you have to come to terms with that, right?
And I think when people watch the movie, The Wolf of Wall Street, it’s important they look at that movie and say, you know what, I get it, it’s glamorous, and it’s fun. ‘Cause I’m not gonna deny that it was fun. It was glamorous, yeah, but there’s something called balance in there that when you are that character that never ends well. It just never ends well.
And one question that I get asked all the time, how was I able to stay positive and motivated in what was certainly the worse time of my life. I had lost my money. I had lost my freedom. I had lost my children for a time. My wife, bottomed out, right. And I think about it, and I say, you know, here’s the secret, when I was in jail, in those moments, and the worst moments of all were at night time, when you’re in your bunk and people are sleeping and you’re alone with your thoughts and you could just really get negative.
And the answer was that, in bed, when I was alone with my thoughts, I would close my eyes and I would visualize the faces of my two children. And I close my eyes, I see their faces, I knew I had let them down so badly, and caused them so much pain, and I said, there’s nothing I won’t do, there’s no length I won’t go to, to prove to these kids that their Dad can do it right. That their Dad’s going to come back even better than before. And it was all about proving to my children that you could come back from failure, that you could make the world right.
I could be an example and make them proud of me. And that was my why. It was all about my kids. And that’s the secret. Your why, it’s never about you. People will do crazy things for causes they believe in, but for yourself you’ll only go so far. My kid’s in trouble, I’ll run through a wall of fire, wouldn’t think twice about it.
And that’s step number one, you have to have a vision for your future that inspires you, that makes you, when you think about it, it just makes you jump out of bed in the morning to really have a life that is far better, far greater, than it is today. That’s your vision for the future. That’s step number one.
The second thing is, and this is a big one, and what most people miss. You have to have a strategy, a plan, that allows you to achieve your vision.
I was on the beach one day, in the Summer in New York, it’s a huge beach, Jones Beach, and it was a hot, Summer, sunny day and everyone’s bitching and moaning because they’ve got to walk about a half mile to the concession stand, and I’m with my friends, I’m like, I wonder what would happen if I went down here with some Italian ices and Chipwichs, and Fudgicles, right, I said well, good idea, I’ll sell them for a buck a piece, next morning, I wake up, I look at the yellow pages, this was back with no internet, I find some ice cream distributor, I take my old, beaten up car down there, I go buy a styrofoam cooler, and I load up the cooler with a barrel of Italian ices, Chipwichs, Fudgicles, Milky Way, Snickers, right? Put some dry ice on top.
The whole thing, loaded up was $22 including the cooler. The cooler was seven bucks, the ice cream was 15 bucks, right? I get in my car, drive an hour to the beach, it’s like 10 o’clock in the morning when I get there. I carry it down there, I walk to the edge of the water, and I start yelling, Italian ices, Chipwichs, Fudgicles. Within one hour, I sell out the entire cooler for $125, and I made 100 bucks in one hour, and the year was 1978.
Back then, minimum wage was $1.20 an hour. I made more than my parents that day. I went back with four coolers. Who wouldn’t, right? I got four coolers, right. So, I load them up like that. Sold all those out. Made $400-$500 my second day. Changed my life. Here’s the interesting thing, I told four or five friends about this, and here’s the weird thing, they all went out and did it with me, but only one of them sold more than one cooler a day. There’s five people, so four with one cooler of stock, only one of them would go out and he’d hustle all day long and make the 500 bucks versus $100 a day. Why is that? Why would someone do that? We’re here, we’re young, none of us have money, and you have this opportunity in your sights where you can make big money and that could change your life, yet most of them, 80% stopped with one cooler. They’re one cooler people.
Only one of them was a four cooler person, just one of my friends. That comes down to that last element, sort of what I call the inner game of success.
What happens up here, between your ears, before you ever go out into the world and take action, and that is your standards. Some people, watch how this relates, some people they have a really bright vision, a bold vision, this great grand visions, alright. Amazing, wow, inspiring! But they have low standards. They’re not willing to do the work.
A champagne vision and beer standards, right. And then you have the other sort of people, those who have really high standards, but they lack a vision for the future. They don’t have a vision that inspires them. So these are like the workers that they sort of have this champagne standards and a beer vision. It’s about having a match between your standards and your vision. And the question always is, well, what should my standards be? Doesn’t matter. They should be congruent with your vision. There’s no right or wrong answer. How much money? It doesn’t matter.
You have to have that vision for the future. Number two, you have to have the strategies to make the vision into reality. But number three, you have to be able to share that vision with other people. To communicate the vision to people in a way that moves them to take action, to come help you achieve it, that gets them going, gets them pumped.
There’s a clip of Warren Buffett’s, it’s actually Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, and one young lady asks Buffett a question. And she says, “We’re going out into the work force, “what can we do to make ourselves “more valuable in the work force?” Good question, right? And Warren Buffett looks at her, and I think, okay he’s gonna say study your financial tables, learn how to be an expert on banking, whatever it might be, you know, picking out companies, whatever, right? No, you know what he says? He goes, “If there’s one thing you can do, “go take a course and study communication, “sales, persuasion, that’s what you gotta do.”
That’s a skill they don’t teach you in college, they don’t really teach, right? And it’s the most crucial skill out there. In fact, he says, “When I got out of college,” Warren Buffett says, “I was a terrible communicator. “I couldn’t sell anything.” So what did he do? He went out and took a course. Now, back then, the gold standard was Dale Carnegie, right. This was many many years ago. He took that course, and he said, “It changed my life. “It allowed me to go out there and communicate and sell.” Here’s the deal, what would Warren Buffett be if he had never taken that course, and never learned how to close a deal, what would Warren Buffett be today? You know what he’d be? He’d be the most successful money manager in Omaha, Nebraska, that nobody ever heard of.
When someone like Warren Buffett, who’s like the opposite of what you think a salesperson is, says that that’s the skill if you want to do one thing to improve your life and really ensure that you get what you want in life, learn how to communicate, learn how to sell. Learn how to communicate, learn how to sell, right? ‘Cause people without that, you die with your music on your lips. You can’t, it’s like, it kills me because there’s so many people out there in the world that have these great ideas, they have this great passion inside, and they could make a difference in the world, and a difference in their own lives, and their family. All this stuff they could do, and yet, because they lack the ability to communicate this idea, to sell their idea to other people, they end up keeping it locked inside, and they die without ever expressing themselves. I mean, to me, that’s the saddest thing.
My wife now, who’s my inspiration, one of the things she said to me was so funny when we first met, she goes, “I have never met someone who is so fearless. “Like you have all this stuff and “you’re just plowing forward. “You’re fearless.” Sweetheart, I said, I’m scared shit. I’m just not letting it stop me. I am scared, and that’s what courage is all about. I let my fear plow me forward, push me forward, and that’s when you have to reframe in your mind about what fear is.
What pain really is. Pain is the greatest motivating force in the world, but if you’re gonna go into denial and numb yourself to the pain, you’re gonna live a smaller and smaller life. Then one day when you’re old in bed and ready to die, you’ll look back at all the things you could have done, you should have done, you would have done, and you didn’t do because you though, well, you know what, I’m okay. I’m doing decent. That’s not so terrible.
You know what, fuck that. Don’t live that life. Don’t be the person that looks back and has regret, and didn’t take action to get what they truly wanted in life. When you’re not feeling massive pain, human beings tend to just sort of, “Well, I’ll stay pat.” Don’t do that. Take the pain. Take the bitter pill, ’cause you know what, that bitter pill will end up being sweet.
And if you’re living that life, and you’re 25, 28 years old, or 22, or however old you are, 40 years old, right? And you’re in this sort of dead end job that’s not what you want to do, don’t think for a split second that this is your lot in life. That you have to stay on this road. At any moment in time you can make a decision. You could get off that road and start going down a completely different road. And you know what, yeah, there will be some pain, there will be some lack in your life, and you know what? That’s what will drive you to greatness. It starts like having the vision for the future to really see your life better than it is right now. That was my secret, and that is gonna be your secret too. When you find that why, once you have that power, then you’ll definitely achieve your vision, no matter what. It might not happen overnight, but it will happen, I promise you.”